Quality declaration - summary
For information on the institutional environment of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), including the legislative obligations of the ABS, financing and governance arrangements, and mechanisms for scrutiny of ABS operations, please see ABS Institutional Environment.
The standards governing national accounts are agreed internationally, and detailed in the "System of National Accounts 2008" (SNA08). SNA08 is endorsed by the five major international economic organisations: the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the OECD, the World Bank and the European Commission. The current complete version of SNA08 is available online: http://unstats.un.org/unsd/nationalaccount/sna2008.asp
The Australian national accounts differ from the recommendations in the SNA08 in certain cases where the data is not available to meet these requirements, or it is not considered practical to adhere to the standards. For more information on the differences between the Australian national accounts and the SNA08 please see Australian System of National Accounts: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 5216.0).
The quarterly Australian national accounts are compiled using data from three consecutive months (e.g. January, February, March), with the release of this information generally occurring on the first Wednesday of the third month following the end of the quarter (e.g. data for the June quarter will be released on the first Wednesday in September).
Accuracy remains the main focus of ABS quality control. However, in the case of the national accounts, it is recognised internationally that an objective accuracy measure in the sense of proximity to the ‘true value’ is impossible to produce. The national accounts are a highly complex set of economic statistics. They combine a very large number of internal and external data sources covering various aspects of the economy to derive GDP and other headline measures.
The national accounts compilation process transforms the various partial data into a set of economic accounts. To make the data more analytically useful it also requires a further transformation of the data to produce the headline chain volume, seasonally adjusted/trend estimates of GDP and components. These data transformations involve various assumptions.
Given the variety of data used, and the transformations and aggregations used in the national accounts process, an assessment of accuracy is necessarily subjective and indirect. It involves an assessment of the national accounts process, the input data and the transformations used to produce the national accounts. The ABS aims to achieve best practice in each of these facets of national accounts compilation. The related quality concept of reliability can be objectively measured by an analysis of revisions, but a reliable series is not necessarily accurate if it is based on poor quality data.
For a more in-depth discussion of the accuracy of the national accounts including an analysis of revisions please see the Information Paper: Quality Dimensions of the Australian National Accounts, 2007 (cat. no. 5216.0.55.002).
The coherence of data is an aspect of quality closely associated with accuracy, both within the national accounts system, and compared with the partial indicators of the economy. A major unifying feature within the Australian System of National Accounts is the use of supply and use methodology to confront the data and balance the components of GDP in annual terms.
The ABS publishes a large amount of data on various aspects of the economy. As the majority of these are used in the national accounts it could be expected that there would be coherence between the partial indicators data and the national accounts. While there are some differences in coverage and concept, there are formal processes in place to ensure that the collections and national accounts staff come to a common view of the statistical treatment of current economic events. National accounts staff also have the opportunity to comment on the partial indicators before they are finalised for publication. None the less, over time, the process of annual benchmarking may lead to some divergencies with the partial indicators.
There are a number of derived statistics and data transformations published with national accounts output to aid interpretation of the data. These include chain volume estimates, trend and seasonally adjusted estimates, GDP growth rates and contributions to GDP growth. Analysis and commentary is included with each publication, and quarterly presentations are available to key users across Australia to provide more information and discussion of the estimates. Australian System of National Accounts: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 5216.0) is a comprehensive description of the methods and concepts underpinning the national accounts.
For links to all national accounts related data and publications, recent national accounts changes and forthcoming events, relevant websites and a range of other information about the Australian National Accounts, please see the National Accounts Statistics homepage.
For more detailed information about the quality dimensions of the Australian National Accounts please see the Information Paper: Quality Dimensions of the Australian National Accounts, 2007 (cat. no. 5216.0.55.002).